Saturday, October 31, 2009

Registered for a First Marathon...

It's official;  I'm now registered for my first marathon race.  The race is The Gusher Marathon, Beaumont, Texas, on May 1, 2010. 
A smaller-city race like this should be a good first marathon for me.  It shouldn't be too crowded, and the course is pretty flat.  It's just a little late in the season; by May 1, it may be getting pretty warm.  However, May allows plenty of time to get ready.  I just need to stretch my long runs into the 20s and continue to build my base mileage.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Recommended Post

Runners, check out this post: I Dreaded Meeting You, on the blog "Justtoday."  It puts a really interesting perspective on the relationship a runner has with his or her sport.  One of the best running posts I've read...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recovery Run/Eco-Run and Cool New Gadget

I ran my recovery run in the park this morning, 3.2 miles, even slower and easier than usual.  I started out a bit sore from Saturday's long run, and running hurt a bit until I warmed up completely.  I experienced a somewhat unusual sensation after yesterday's 18 miler; immediately after I finished the run, when I first stood still, I had such a burning feeling in my calves like I've never felt before.  It was like they were on fire for a minute or two, and then the sensation subsided.  It was just a little different from a normal workout burn; it's hard to describe...

A recovery run is a perfect pace to combine with an Eco-Run.  The slower pace allows a better view into the underbrush and a little more time to look.  I took advantage of the easy run to look farther beyond the edge of the trail for litter, and bagged a lot of plastic and aluminum for recyling as I passed by.  One last Eco-Run in this park before I move.

Don't you hate litter?

I also found an interesting new gadget for the blog, a moon phase indicator (see sidebar).  I sometimes look up moon phase information to get an idea of how much natural light to expect on pre-dawn runs.  This gadget will put it at my fingertips on the blog...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Poignant Last Long Run in a Wonderful Park? (And a New Distance Milestone: 18.2 Miles)

I had mixed emotions while running my weekly Long Run in the park.  It was another great run, on a perfect morning for running, crisp and cool, 49° at 6:30 AM. I'm moving to Beaumont, TX next week, 60 miles away, so this is probably my last Long Run in this park.  I like Beaumont, and there are some nice parks there, but running today in this park brought back so many memories.  In this park, I was born as a runner.  Here, I evolved from a walker/hiker to an occasional runner, to a dedicated runner.  In this park, I ran my first continuous 2 miles in 2005.  I remembered how good I felt completing my first 6 mile run here on July 2, 2008.  I run the streets in my neighborhood on weekday mornings before work, and run in the park on weekend mornings.  However, the weekday runs are mostly for routine base mileage, while my distance runs, my milestone runs, my long, sweltering summer runs, and my great, inspiring runs have been in this park.  My original schedule was to repeat at 16 miles a third week today before increasing again, but decided to try for 18 miles today to leave this park on a new distance milestone.

I ran with these thoughts through about 9 miles, and as I lapped the start of the trail, Mike was just starting his run.  I've run with Mike occasionally, when we happen to get on the same part of the trail at the same time.  Mike's a strong runner and a quick runner (compared to me); he's an experienced multi-marathoner and races at or under 8 minute pace.  He's currently building his mileage back up to run the Houston Marathon again in January.  I told Mike I was trying to finish up at 18, and he paced me the rest of the way.  That was really nice, because he wasn't going to run that far today; he's been doing his long runs on Sundays.  We talked as we ran, and Mike always has a lot of good training tips.  Having someone to pace against helped me stay in a good rythmn for the rest of the run, and amazingly, I didn't struggle too much in the latter miles.  The only negative:  I got a little side stitch in the last half mile that really slowed me down.  I don't know where that came from;  I never get a stitch!

A good run, a new personal distance milestone, 18.2 miles, 3:14:28, 10.68 pace. Hollaway Park, I will miss you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trial and Error (Well, Maybe Mostly Error...)

After months and months of trial and error, I finally seem to have settled into a training formula that works for me.  In 2008, when I really started to run seriously (rather than sporadically), I was woefully ignorant of what I should be doing.  I just went out and ran.  That was OK, to a point.  However, as daily and weekly mileage increases, the miles become less forgiving of runner mistakes.   Looking back, I probably made almost every dumb mistake possible.  Dumb Mistake #1: Poor Shoes-  I started out with halfway worn-out running shoes, and put maybe 400 more miles on them before I got new ones.  I didn't get new shoes until my feet really started to hurt, and by then it was too late.  I later found that recommended running shoe replacement is every 300-500 miles.  I had just signed up for my first race in March, 2009, and my feet (especially my left) made me stop running for over two weeks.  I tried to walk my run route instead, and couldn't even do that, just barely limping around the house and office to get where I had to go.  I  thought I was just getting some arthritis around my heel and ankle joints, and that if I just worked through it, the pain would go away.  It didn't.  Closer examination determined that the worst pain came from my left heel area, that I have low arches and overpronation, and the result was plantar fasciitis.   I was fortunate that after 2+ weeks of rest, I was able to run again (with new shoes), with only very slight pain.  I worked on a stationary bike for the 2 weeks to maintain some level of conditioning, and tried to run again 4 days before the race.  I felt OK, so I ran 2 days, took 2 days off, and ran hard on Saturday.  To this date, that race is still my best ever 5K time.  Dumb mistake #2: Ignorance of the 10% Rule- The foot problem scared me, and prompted me to learn about the "right" way of doing things.  I read every thing I could find on the running web sites.  I discovered the "10% rule" -  Don't increase weekly mileage by more than 10 %, and don't increase the distance of the longest weekly run by more than 10%.  At least, I had been smart enough to start a spreadsheet for running stats in 2009.  Looking back, I found that 3 weeks before I had to stop running, I had increased my weekly mileage by 44%.  Plus, I was running 7 days a week, with no recovery days (Dumb mistake #3).   These are the really stupid mistakes.  The rest are probably more in the area of lessons learned and finding what works best for me.  Lesson Learned #1: Hydration- As I started running longer distances in the brutal Texas summer, I had to experiment with how much to drink before and during a long run to avoid coming home 6 ½ pounds lighter due to dehydration.  And I'm a morning runner; I run at the lowest temperature of the day.  Later in the day, the effect is greater.  It's a good idea to know your sweat rate.  Weigh before and after running, add the amount you drank during the run,  and divide by hours run.  The result is the amount of liquid needed during each hour.  Sports drinks have electrolytes.  Too much plain water can be dangerous due to electrolyte dilution.  Lesson Learned #2: Clothing-  I started running in cotton t-shirts, shorts and socks.  After getting overheated and chafed because cotton doesn't wick moisture and doesn't breathe when its wet, and after getting blisters when I started running 10+ miles, I discovered why runners wear polyester shorts and shirts, and poly-acrylic-lycra spandex socks.  Moisture and friction control!   Lesson Learned #3: Managing Plantar Faciitis-   Here's what worked for me:  1. Stretches that stretch the calf and Achilles tendon.  I loosen up a little before I run, but stretch a lot after I run.  2. I found over-the-counter cushioned arch support inserts that help a lot.  I started out wearing them running, but now I wear them all the time, except in the shower and in bed.  3. Ice: After a long run, I soak my feet in a bucket with ice and water for 5-10 minutes.  It makes sore feet feel better quickly.  Some people said that it would not heal unless I quit running for maybe a few months,  but with this combination, it is gradually improving even as I'm adding total mileage. 

There are a million and one training programs out there and a confusing array of possible techniques. Distance?  Speed?  Intervals?  Mile repeats?  Fartlek?  What's a newbie runner to do?  I think the answer is to do what works for you.   I'm training for marathon distance, so the long run is my key workout.  I tried speed work, but sprints aggravated my heel pain, so I quit.  What works for me is the Tempo Run, fast enough to be a push, but without too much extra shock. 

This is the weekly training formula that's working for me:
1. I run 6 days, and rest 1 day; 5 short runs and 1 long run.
2. For 4 days, I run easy pace and tempo pace on alternating days.
3. The day before my long run is for rest or light cross-training.
4. I run one long run per week.  When I add distance, I repeat it several consecutive weeks before adding distance again.
5. The day after my long run is for a short and easy recovery run.

Advice to New Runners:
1. Get a decent pair of shoes.  They don't have to be the most expensive; I look for good mid-range shoes on sale, but I'm a cheapskate.
2. Read articles. Learn.  There's a lot of information out there on the web.  Talk to runners.  There may be a few snobby elite types, but I haven't met any.  I've found runners to be an inclusive group that love to help other runners. 
3. Start out easy and increase gradually.
4. Shake up your routine.  Run easy some days and harder some days, shorter some days and longer on others. Give yourself some rest days.
5. Listen to your body.
6. Don't forget about #5.

Weekday Training: October 20-23

Friday - I didn't run; continued to rest up for Saturday. I almost went out to make up the missed Thursday run, but I like taking the day off before my weekly long run. It seems like it improves the quality of my long run to rest the day before, and run it with fresh legs. I didn't risk affecting my favorite run of the week for a routine three miles. However, I NEVER take off two consecutive days; I was feeling "restless feet" all day, and couldn't stop thinking about Saturday.

Thursday - I didn't run ; a cool front came through, bringing huge thuderstorms all morning. 
Wednesday - Easy run, 3.1 miles, 32:50, 10.48 pace, still pretty nice @70°.
Tuesday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:01, 9.36 pace, pleasant @62°.  Actually about 5 seconds behind my Tempo pace range, but I'm going to count it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Recovery Run and an Unexpected Reward

My normal routine is to take a slow Recovery Run on the morning following my weekly Long Run.  At 5 AM this morning, I had to force myself out of bed to run.  Normally, I can't wait to get up and run, but I ached more than normal, from the cumulative effect of Sunday's Long Run, followed by working in the yard all afternoon, followed by cycling in the evening.  I finally convinced myself that even a short run would help the soreness subside more quickly, and to at least run 1 ½ or 2 miles.  I didn't get on the road until 5:40, 10+ minutes later than normal.  Running was uncomfortable at first, but got easier as I warmed up, and I decided to go 2 miles.  At about ¾ mile, I got an unexpected reward:  I saw a meteor streak overhead, making a long, bright trail of light through the dark sky as it passed.  I felt pretty good by the end of the run, and my soreness was gone by the afternoon; this was the reward I expected from today's run.  The next time I'm tempted to stay in bed, I hope to remember that a day missed may also result in the loss of an unexpected reward.  (Run stats: 2.0 miles, 24:12, 12.10 pace.)

I've always been interested in astronomy; with a little research online I found that every October, the Earth passes through an area of space containing rock fragments and dust left by Halley's comet.  This results in an annual Orionid Meteor shower. The peak dates for this year were predicted to be October 16-27.  The debris is actually very close to Earth, but the meteors are called "Orionid" because from Earth, they appear to originate from the direction of the constellation Orion.  On the morning of this sighting, I had noticed that the constellation Orion was very prominent in the night sky, and the meteor did indeed seem to come from the general direction of Orion.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Awash in a Sea of Endorphins - A Great 16.4 Mile Run

Today's Long Run was an incredible, inspiring run.  No, I didn't set a new distance record, or run an incredibly fast pace.  I didn't run in a new location, or see any new sights, just the same park, same woods and same trails I run every weekend; still, it felt perfect in just about every way.  It was one of those runs that reminds me why I run.  Not why I started running, but why I continue to run; why I love to run.  I got on the trail at 6:50 AM, about a half hour before sunrise, in the low, pre-dawn light  that comes shortly before the sun breaks the horizon.  It was a perfect fall morning, about 50 degrees, with an invigorating chill in the air.  Starting out, the cool air made the run seem effortless; I was in "the Zone."  Before I realized it, I was at the 5-mile point, enjoying the sight of the sunlight trickling through the trees as the sun slowly rose.  As the sun rose higher, it came with a light, cool breeze that felt so good as I warmed with the increasing miles.

This was my second week of training at a 16.4-mile distance (my longest distance to date).  My formula recently has been to repeat each new distance several times before increasing distance again.  I just wanted to run it more comfortably and a little quicker.  To that end, I started out pushing it a little, and I probably ran near Tempo pace through 8 or 9 miles.  As I started to tire a little, I decided, on this perfect morning, to forget about the time and savor this run for the running, not for the mileage, and not for the time. So, I slowed down a little and just ran by feel, and by instinct, and let everything else take care of itself.  To some extent, the process of training for a marathon can lead to focus on numbers, and sure, one has to pay some attention to the numbers to stay on track.  I have a tendency to get hung up on stats: miles, pace, heart rate, etc.  But on this special morning, this run itself was more important. Slowing down a little resulted in a second wind, and I was able to pick it up in the last couple of miles instead of struggling at the finish.  Felt great.

Back to the numbers: 16.4 miles, 2:53:50, 10.60 pace.  In absolute terms, nothing to brag about, but 3:17 under last week's time...

Sunday evening - Back through the park on bicycle before dinner, 7.4 miles, just to warm up again while still achy from the morning run.  Same concept as a recovery run.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No Impact Week

Sunday, October 18, 2009 marks the start of  No Impact Week.  According to the website, "It is a chance for you to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern “conveniences” you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money."

No Impact Week grew out of the No Impact Project, one family's fascinating "year-long experiment living a zero-waste lifestyle in New York City." The No Impact Man blog is also good reading.

Environmentally-concerned individuals may sign up via the website to participate.  Many people may find it is not possible to follow all of the "no impact" methods for an entire week (much less an entire year); however, I don't believe improvements are"all or nothing" propositions.  Follow the links and read.  See what works for you.  Where "no impact" isn't achievable, "low impact" is the next-best thing!  The collective power of many people just doing what they can is powerful.

The How-To Manual is published for the No Impact Week event, but is a nice collection of suggestions to live an eco-friendly lifestyle.  A lot of environmentally-conscious people already practice some or many of them.  It's a good reference to find ideas and choose ones that will work for you.

Weekly Training: October 12-17

Monday through Saturday:
Saturday - No running; rest up for a Sunday Long Run.  Bicycled 2.5 miles with my wife in the afternoon.
Friday - Cool front coming through!  Tempo Run, 3.1 miles, 27:40, 8.92 pace, 69°, 85% humidity.
Thursday - Easy Run, 3.1 miles, 32:37, 10.52 pace; 77°, 97% humidity.
Wednesday - Tempo Run, 3.1 miles, 29:03, 9.37 pace; super-muggy at 5:30 AM: 77°, 98% humidity.
Tuesday - Easy Run, 3.1 miles, 31:21, 10.12 pace; warming up, 75°, 98% humidity.
Monday - NiceTempo Run, 3.1 miles, 28:07, 9.07 pace, enjoying the last of the cool front: 65°, 95% humidity. Still a little twinge in the knee, but continuing to improve.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekly Training - October 5-11: 16.4 Mile Run Saturday, A New Distance Milestone!

Sunday - Nice Recovery Run, 3.5 miles, 40:14, at 11.50 pace, right in the middle of my recovery range per the McMillan Running Calculator.  I was a little tentative because of pain in the left knee that was more than I'm used to.  My knees don't usually hurt, but I've been getting a little knee pain following my weekly Long Run since I've been stretching the distance.  However, it usually goes away in a day or two, so I haven't been overly concerned.  Today, it got  a little better after a couple of miles, and was much less by evening.

Saturday - A new distance milestone: 16.4 miles!  Less than 10 miles from the goal!  I guess that's an extra benefit to training for a first marathon: as training progresses, there are constant rewards from reaching a series of intermediate goals.  Saturday was a great day for a long run, 59° at 7 AM.  I took the same route through the park; just added one more 2.2 mile lap.  My goals were modest: to complete the distance, and to try to sustain a 11:00 pace or better.  On previous new distances, my first attempt has been SLOW.  The pace turned out OK, had a few ebbs and flows, but kept finding second and third winds.  I didn't really struggle much until about the last half-mile, and finished up at 2:57:07, a 10.80 pace.  I'll take it.  The next one will be better.

Monday through Friday:  Nature played a cruel trick; after a few days of mostly cooler morning temps following the official onset of Fall, night-time lows and humidity crept back up to July-August levels this week.  It has no businees being 81° at 5:30 AM in October!  Started out oppressive Monday; trending up to miserable by Thursday.  My pace suffered.  But enough whining.  A cool front is coming Friday!

Friday - No running - rest for Saturday's Long Run.
Thursday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 34:04, 10.99 pace, 81°, 98% humidity.
Wednesday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:37, 9.55 pace, 79°, 95% humidity.
Tuesday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 32:56, 10.62 pace, 80°, 96% humidity.
Monday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:42, 9.58 pace, 76°, 94% humidity.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Need To Get In The Water...

I haven't gotten the kayak wet since June.  That's too long; I need to get the boat in the water again soon...  Why do I like to kayak?     (Click Pictures to enlarge.)

1. To Get Close To Nature

You get a "water-level" view.  It's a perspective you don't get in any other boat.
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

You can take a kayak into areas that most people can never see.
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

You can go anywhere; you're not limited by shallow water or narrow passages.
You'll never get a motor boat in here!
(Cypress backwater - Lake Charlotte - Chambers County, TX)

Kayaking is so quiet; no noisy motor to scare off the wildlife. 
I coasted up within 10 feet of this heron.
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

2. Kayaking is Earth-Friendly

Human-powered boating, no motor, no exhaust fumes, no waste of precious fossil-fuel, no pollution.
You can use your paddle to scoop litter out of the water.  Eco-Kayaking!

Some protected nature preserves don't allow motors.  Yay!
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

3. Kayaking is Relaxing 

Getting close to nature is a perfect way to relax and get rid of stress.
(Cedar Bayou - Harris/Chambers County, TX)

4. Kayaking is Great Exercise

Paddling on the waterways is good aerobic excercise; good for upper-body conditioning. 
Good for the body as well as the soul!
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

Sunday, October 4, 2009


On weekends, I run the trails through our local parks. As I run, I pick up litter along the way, bring the recyclables home and put them in a recycling bin to put out at the weekly curbside pickup, and drop the non-recyclables in the trash barrels in the park. Why?
1. Because I hate litter.
2. Because I hate the idea of recyclable items not being recycled.  Such a waste of resources!

Here's the return from my Sunday run in the park. 
I carry a reuseable bag in my pocket, but I'll fill a discarded plastic shopping bag instead, if I see one on the ground.

These were all laying along the trails in the park.  Disgusting!

Here's where this stuff belongs:  in recycling buckets!

I've been doing this for several years, and I knew that there had to be other people out there doing the same thing.  Earlier this year, I came across the Eco-Runner blog, which has since evolved into the Eco-Runner website, founded by Sam Huber in Milwaukee.  Sam has combined a passion for running with a passion for a cleaner world, and called it Eco-Running.  I'm pleased to see the spirit of volunteer environmental cleanup growing from an individual activity into a movement.  Check out these links, and...

Run Green!

Weekly Training - September 28 - October 4

Sunday - Recovery Run.  Humidity is back!  7:40 AM, 75 degrees, 95% humidity, light drizzle.  Nice, easy run, 3.5 miles, 38:53, 11.11 pace.

Saturday - I thought about adding a couple of miles on this week's long run, but instead decided to repeat the 14.2 miler for a third straight week, and get more comfortable with this distance.  Two weeks ago, I struggled to make the 14, and last Saturday I ran it fairly comfortably but REALLY slowly.  My goal today was to run it stronger and cut some time off; target 11-minute/mile pace or less.  Same route, 1 mile from home to the park to home, plus 6 x 2.2-mile laps on the park trails.

I got started a few minutes later than I intended, 7:08 AM, right at sunrise.  It was a nice morning for a good run, 69 degrees, 76% humidity, cloudy with a light breeze.  I felt like I started out about right but  it took some adjustment to find the right pace.  My first pace check was the end of the first lap, and I was about two minutes behind through 2.7 miles.  So I picked up the pace a little; it still felt comfortable, and I kind or settled into a groove.   At the pace check at the end of the next lap at 4.9 miles, I'd made up all but a few seconds of the two minutes.  At the end of the third lap, the halfway point, I was a little ahead of target.  Marathon Mike was just hitting the trail, and he ran with me for the last 3 laps.  Mike's a strong runner, and it always helps to have someone to pace against. Mike seemed to kind of adjust to my stride, and I tried to keep up the tempo and not slow him down.  We talked as we ran; Mike has a lot of good advice for marathon preparation.  The conversation helped the remaining laps pass more easily.  By about mile 13, I started getting a little out of breath, but finished up without too much of a struggle.  I took several short walk breaks, fewer and shorter than last week, a minute or less each, and finished 2:30:44, a 10.62 pace.  This was 18 ½ minutes less than last Saturday's time.  Saturday evening:  biked about 3 miles with my wife, slow and easy: it just felt good to loosen up tight leg muscles a little following the long morning run.

Friday - No run - rest up for Saturday.
Thursday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 32:55, 10.62 pace.
Wednesday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 28:37, 9.23 pace.
Tuesday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 31:03, 10.02 pace.
Monday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:15, 9.44 pace.